OHA Director Allen sets deadlines for actions to resolve state hospital capacity crisis

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen notified Governor Kate Brown of deadlines he has imposed for state hospital and behavioral health system leaders to address the capacity crisis at the Oregon State Hospital, due to the increasing number of patients sent to the hospital by local courts under “aid and assist” orders.

Since 2012 patients admitted to Oregon State Hospital under an “aid and assist” order by courts have more than doubled. Patients under “aid and assist” orders are defendants facing criminal charges who are unable to participate in their trial due to a mental illness. Under state law, county and municipal courts commit defendants to the state hospital (or to community treatment) so they can become “restored to competency,” or well enough to “aid and assist” in their own defense. Currently there are more than 260 patients at Oregon State Hospital who were admitted under “aid and assist” orders. Patients under “aid and assist” orders now account for more than four in 10 state hospital patients.

 

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There are approximately 40 people waiting for admission because the hospital is at the maximum capacity at which it can be safely managed for patients and staff. As a result of this capacity crisis, many of “aid and assist” defendants are not being admitted to the hospital within a required seven-day period. On June 4 a Washington County court held the state in contempt for not meeting the seven-day requirement for four “aid and assist” admissions.

State hospital and behavioral health leaders have been acting to alleviate patient population pressure at Oregon State Hospital due to the rapidly escalating number of patients sent to the hospital by local courts under “aid and assist” orders. Today’s directive sets deadlines to:

  • Reduce the wait time for people under “aid and assist” orders to be admitted to Oregon State Hospital.
  • Ensure counties are rapidly transitioning patients back to community treatment for restoration services when they have been stabilized and no longer need hospital-level care, which will reduce the length of stay for current patients under “aid and assist” orders and free up beds for new admissions.
  • Increase community services in counties for those who do not need hospital-level care, to divert them from the hospital.

“The state hospital cannot solve this capacity crisis on its own,” Director Allen said. “We look forward to working with legislators and local leaders to adopt more effective solutions that prevent people with mental illness from being arrested, keep them out of jail, divert patients who don’t need acute treatment from the state hospital and offer them housing and treatment in their communities.”

Under Allen’s directive, state hospital and behavioral health leaders will expedite work underway to stem the crisis within imminent and specific deadlines. Leaders will complete the tasks and provide a complete report on their progress by August 9.

This press released was produced by the Oregon Health Authority.